Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shape Shifter

One of the hardest things of this menopausal time in my life is that it has happened when I’m carrying extra weight. As it is, women tend to gain a bit when they are in mid-life but this has been adding insult to injury.

Recently I was looking back on old photos of myself so I could submit my 1970s fabulous prom photo to Shelley for the collection she will be displaying. As I looked at photos of myself in my late teens and even all the way into my 30s I realized I never, ever appreciated what I had back then: a really cute figure.

I am a woman who at first gains weight through the hip and lower abdominal area but eventually, if I gain enough, my top catches up. Therefore, I can confidently say that I still have a figure it’s just not the one I would like to have, as it seems that I have turned into a rectangle.

Being rectangular is not fun for me right now as it seems most of my work clothing has worn out its welcome and I need to buy some things for spring and summer. Most of the time I look for clothing with a little ‘give’ (and for-give) as the tiniest bit of stretch does seem to help de-emphasize the rolls. I also have to look for slacks that fall just below my waist otherwise to find a pair that actually fits my non-existent waist causes a look reminiscent of a child with a full diaper from the rearview.

In the winter dressing for work is easy enough: any combination of slacks, skirt, shirt and jacket works. This time of year, however, the dress code changes a bit towards something a bit more casual. I think a lot of it is due to the fact that my boss owned a marina and as the marina season opened, his attire switched to much more casual wear as he was often running back and forth between the office and the marina to conduct business.

I’ve been reading Kristen’s blog Low Fat Dressing for a while now and while I am not the type to accessorize in quite the way she does, I’ve been looking to her for tips into this odd season where winter clothes are too much and summer clothing is not quite enough.

One of the things that she has spoken about for a long time is adding a belt. Up to now, I have not been able to find the right combination of shirt/belt to satisfy me. Ironically, shirts with built in belts seem to be all the rage this year and so I have purchased a couple in the hopes that I could find my waist again.

I don’t think I am successful and it frustrates me! The thing is, I’m not even in plus sized clothing – I am a solid 12 right now (although I guess years ago that would probably have been a 16 or an 18 which is plus size). I can walk into any store and buy a 12 and 99% of the time, it fits – don’t even have to try it on. Although I like the total look of the outfit that I am about to show you, I still feel like a big boxy rectangle.

Herewith I will show you several photos (including outtakes) so you can see my boxy-ness for yourself. Sigh.

I purposefully chose this Harve Benard shirt because the stripes are vertical, which I always think are slimming, and though it is mostly cotton it has some stretch as well. The slacks are also a cotton/stretch blend and fall exactly where I want them to below my belly button. The shoes are super cute: suede Tommy Hilfiger flats that I got on a clearance rack last year for $5! Kristen recommends wearing a shoe that is more open along the top so that part of your foot shows. This may be the one part of this outfit that is successful.

I wish I could figure this out because I know when I think I look good, I feel better. Feeling better helps me act better. If I could just keep acting better, I should eventually get back into some of the gorgeous smaller than size 12 clothing items I have in totes patiently waiting for my return.


  1. We are our own worst critics. So while you may think you look boxy, I think you look perfectly beautiful. You look great, Helen! Really. I don't see rectangle at all. Not even a little bit.

  2. I will check out that blog for dressing tips! I think you look adorable! I am not just saying that you really are adorable. I don't think we see ourselves the same way others see us.

  3. I think you look great, Helen! You're a beautiful woman!

  4. You always look cute Helen. I have to say I am not a belt person, never have been. I wonder what that outfit looks like without a belt. Also, I'm wondering what it would look like with a loose belt lower down. I remember when Shelley did that belt thing and the lower belt was surprisingly cute.

  5. Debby's comment is so funny because I was going to suggest you try the belt higher - it feels weird, but Kristen does it a lot and it does make your waist look smaller. That said, you do not look like a rectangle! I think you look great and I adore your style.

    Thanks for the prom dress shout out - I'm still hoping to get more entries. :)

  6. I have to side with the rest of your readers and say, YOU LOOK MAAAAHVELOUS (said in my best Billy Crystal imitation :-).

    Seriously...I don't see a rectangle. You're being waaaay to hard on yourself.

    When I am wearing two pieces (pants or skirts and a top without a built in belt) I have found wider belts, worn lower, to be more flattering on my figure...but that's just me. When it's a dress or a top with something built in, a thinner, higher-up belt is better.

  7. I think you look adorable. I don't see any "boxes"! Knock it off! You look GREAT!

  8. I think you look great, not rectangular at all :-).

    I struggle with a weird shape I'm wearing pants that sag a little in the behind,and the waist is tight. Sigh.

  9. Yeah - you look good. You know I've lamented many times over my post menopausal boxy body - I used to be quite the pear, which of course I hated when I wanted to be 36-24-36. Now I'd kill for that pear over this large shipping carton of a body I tote around!

  10. I think the last picture of you is my favorite - love your smile!


  11. I don't think you look Boxy Helen!!! You look GORGEOUS!!!!!!! We are all so hard on ourselves aren't we??? Have a good day.

  12. It looks great on you Helen, you can definitely wear that belt! I totally agree that when I feel I'm dressed good I feel much better. At weekends I wear a lot of jeans with a shirt and that makes me feel less good about myself then when I dress up for work.

    And I agree about not appreciating the figure when we were younger and had less weight to carry around.

  13. you do look beautiful and it is amazing to me how so frequently we can not see what those around us do.

  14. Okay, first, WOW. It was so odd and so flattering to see my blog being discussed as I was scrolling through my Reader! :) Thank you -- I am really glad you are reading and thinking and trying some of the things I like to wear. I love seeing my friends try new things in fashion!

    Okay, now onto the critique. You don't look boxy, but you're right, the outfit isn't flattering you the way it could. Here's the thing: it's the pants, not the top. Angie at YLF just had a post yesterday about troubleshooting problem outfits, and I think it is the length of your items here that is bothering you. The top is long and the pants are wide, and then the flats shorten you even more. The effect is that your bottom half is squared off more than it should be. I fall into this trap ALL THE TIME. It's so frustrating!

    I would try the top again with a thinner-leg pant or a skirt. Not skinnies, just not as wide a leg. Or add a heel instead of flats, which really does elongate the leg and make wider-leg pants look leaner. Shelley is also right, raising the belt so it is higher will also help; it should sit at the smallest part of you, not at your actual waist. It's weird at first, but then the results are so much better than expected!
    I think that top itself and the belt is really cute. Don't give up on it!

  15. You look great!
    I think of people I saw yesterday at work.
    Skinny, fat, and all shapes and sizes in between.
    There was not one single time in the day
    I thought - "Gee - that shirt looks boxy on her."
    In fact the opposite is true.
    I think "Gee - that outfit looks great!"